Gravel crunched under the wheels of my silver Nissan as they rolled to a stop in front of the Cashman Center Theatre on Las Vegas Boulevard, grateful for a rest after their long journey from Provo, Utah. There were still several hours before the curtain would whisk open and begin that evening’s Dancers Making a Difference event benefitting Rising Star Outreach. With arms laden with banners, flyers, and other display items, I inched past the security guard and into the spacious lobby to assess the scene.
Little girls in bright red lipstick and sparkly eyeshadow darted around lithe teenagers practicing rond de jambes and pique turns. A dance father on his cell phone was emphatically stating, “They said her hair needed to be in a high, tight ponytail!” and a dance mother was gripping several costumes with one hand while rummaging in her purse for her daughter’s apple with the other.
I dumped my collection on a waiting table and looked for the mastermind of the evening’s proceedings, a woman named Kathy Bunker. I’d never met Kathy but I had heard much about her - all of it glowing. Kathy is the owner of Bunker Dance Center, “a world class, award winning axis for dance where unrivaled faculty inspire and motivate dancers of all ages.” Kathy has been directing/hosting Dancers Making a Difference for several years and has been instrumental in her teams raising tens of thousands of needed dollars to help the leprosy affected in India.
I was smoothing an indigo sari across a long banquet table when Kathy walked through the door with Rising Star’s founder, Becky Douglas. The glowing reports I had heard about Kathy matched her countenance, which also radiated energy and warmth. Her blond hair was pulled back (though not in a high, tight ponytail) and her smile beamed a greeting.
In years past, Bunker Dance Center partnered with others to put on the event, but this year Kathy’s studio supplied the entire program, involving all of the dance troupes. As the crowd began to file in, supportive family and friends explored the Rising Star table and I had a chance to explain about leprosy, micro businesses, the Sponsor a Child program, and more. They were all receptive and supportive.
If you have ever heard Becky Douglas speak about the work of Rising Star, you know that she is spellbinding. This evening was no exception. As she related her story, the beautiful sari in which she was draped was the only clue that might give away the fact that she had just flown in from several weeks of hard work in India.
And then the dancing began.
From members of the youngest beginning teams to the technically advanced older teams, each dancer delivered an impressive performance. The costumes, lighting, and choreography complimented well-chosen music and the flow of the program kept the audience engaged from the first number to the last. It was humbling to think about the number of people that had to come together to pull off such a beautiful evening - from the choreographers and dancers to the supportive families to the lighting and sound crews to the stage managers and promoters and security guards and beyond. It was inspiring to see a community come together through a shared passion to benefit strangers on the other side of the world.
After the show, I was able to meet Kenady Bunker, Kathy’s beautiful daughter who also teaches and choreographs at the studio. Kenady thumbed through the pictures of children displayed on the table, marveling at how they had grown since she spent time in India volunteering for Rising Star. Additionally, I was pleased to see Steele and Sarah Hendershot, who also lived and volunteered with their children in India. Steele later served as the executive director of Rising Star in the United States. One of my favorite parts about working for Rising Star are the many wonderful people connected to the cause.
The evening was a stunning success, thanks to the hard work of everyone involved and their humanitarian hearts. We are grateful to those who attended, who sponsored children, who donated, and who made the fantastic performance possible. After raising over $9,000 and connecting nine children to new sponsors, these dancers, along with their community of support, have truly made a difference.